DOJ starts probe on prisons chief over homicide convict’s trip out of jail
MANILA, Philippines — A Department of Justice fact-finding body begins its formal investigation on Monday on the possible administrative liabilities of Bureau of Corrections director Ernesto Diokno and other prison officials following the arrest in Makati City of New Bilibid Prisons inmate Jose Antonio Leviste, a homicide convict and former Batangas governor, who managed to leave the state penitentiary unauthorized.
Justice Undersecretary Francisco Baraan III, head of the fact-finding panel, told reporters that the investigation has been set to be held at the BuCor office in Muntinlupa City with Leviste, Diokno, the NBP superintendent and other prison officials and guards invited as “resource persons.”
“The invitations are for everyone in the BuCor who may be able to shed light in the incident. [They are required] to appear in the investigation from Monday to Wednesday. Afterwards, we are required to make our report to be submitted to the Secretary. It will be the Secretary who will inform President Aquino of our recommendations,” Baraan said.
Aside from Baraan, the other members of the panel are Senior State Prosecutors Susan Dacanay and Ma. Emilia Victorio; National Bureau of Investigation director for intelligence services Ruel Lasala; and state counsels Wilberto Lolitol and Charlene Mae Tapic.
The undersecretary said the proceedings of the body may be covered by the media to to ensure transparency. The resource persons, if they wanted to, could bring their own lawyers to advise them, he added.
The DOJ official explained that the investigation, being fact-finding in nature, would establish whether there were criminal or administrative liabilities on the part of the public officials in allowing Leviste to go out of the NBP complex unmonitored.
The panel has been instructed by Justice Secretary Leila de Lima to ascertain whether or not the prison officials and guards were grossly negligent or remiss in their duties or had connived with Leviste to give him VIP treatment.
As for Diokno, a presidential appointee, Baraan said the panel would make the “necessary recommendations” that, if approved by De Lima, would be referred to Aquino for the final decision. He said the DOJ could sanction or dismiss the other BuCor and NBP officials with civil service eligibility, but not Diokno, a political appointee.
“That is not our call. …He’s a presidential appointee, but later on, depending on the outcome of the investigation, we can recommend that (sanctions ) to the President,” he said.
Leviste has been serving a 12-year sentence for the 2007 killing of his business aide Rafael de las Alas. He had been given a “living out” status as inmate, which allows him to go anywhere within the New Bilibid Prisons complex in Muntinlupa but not outside.
He was arrested by NBI agents Wednesday afternoon in front of Makati City’s LPL Tower building, which he owns. He had no guards and could not produce any permit authorizing him to leave the NBP premises.
Leviste was charged two days later for evasion of service of sentence.
On Saturday, the panel inspected the NBP in preparation for their hearings. Baraan and other members toured the minimum security compound where Leviste, a “sleepout” prisoner, was allowed to set up huts. They viewed the other inmates who were given “living-out” status and checked how security was being enforced at the penitentiary.
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